Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Tue, 27 Feb 1996 09:19:50 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random Thought: My Own Ignorance

Fog. Chill in the air. Faint moonglow. Drops of condensed mist falling from barren tree branches like rain. Quiet.

While walking in this envelope of dark and silent solitude, I was thinking about Yemenja and how sharing my story of her impact on me prompted others to share equally magnificant and beautiful stories of students who influenced them. But, I was also thinking about some interesting discussions going on about students walking out of class in the middle of a lecture, talking to each other while the professor talked, just not paying attention to the teacher while she/he waxed brilliantly, selling and buying lecture notes rather than going to class. The connecting thread of all these discussions was to heap total blame on and point the sole finger at the student for not being dedicated to and responsible for his or her own education. But, I wonder, as I told a colleague during a cordial exchange, maybe we should own up and share both the responsibility and blame. So many times we patronize the student by saying, "I don't blame them for doing so and so" as if the students are smart enough to know an academic sink hole of questionable value when they see it. But, then, without missing a heartbeat, as if the truth and meaning of that acknowledgement is too uncomfortable to confront and bare, we proceed to blame them for everything amiss. Well, if the students are bored, maybe it is we who are boring. Our excitement for the subject doesn't necessarily automatically translate into an exciting learning climate or experience. If the students don't feel cared about or missed , maybe it is we who don't care for or about them and are missing the point. If the students in their wisdom find it purposeless to go to class to hear a rehashing of the textbook or to play glassy-eyed and take lecture notes they can secure elsewhere, maybe we ought to reflect on the purpose and meaning of class time. Maybe if the students don't talk to us, it is because we don't sincerely and respectly listen to their voice. If some students walk out of a classroom, maybe it is because some of us haven't really walked in. If we are not there in spirit to interact and don't really interact, maybe we have to change our act. If class attendance, note-taking, dress-codes, lectures, grading, our voices have become the heart of our perception of learning, maybe we've become heartless. Maybe if the students has become faceless, we have to face up to the truth, heed them, and look ourselves in the face.

To thinking about Yemenja, the stories her story prompted, these discussions, I thought of something else. I just wrote to my good friend, my fellow-traveler, Peter Frederick at Wabash College. He asked me a while back for my reaction to Jonathan Bach's statement that we teach what we must learn. I delayed my answer because I didin't know how to answer. I am afraid my response yesterday was both cryptic and incomplete. Now that I think about all this that has been going on--and especially from my own experiences--this is what I should have told him. I am convinced that in those students and colleagues to whom I did not and/or do not and/or will not listen, whom I did not and/or do not and/or will not see, to whom I did not and/or do not and/or will not accord respect, from whom I did not and/or do not and/or will not learn, I have found my own deafness, blindness, ignorance, disrespect, and a need to learn.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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